Sweet and Spicy Beets

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I feel like beets are a vegetable that don’t get the attention they deserve. I only recently started cooking with whole beets and they are delicious! Not only do they taste great, but their color is so beautiful, they can make a really pretty side dish.  Also, besides their great looks and taste, they’re very good for you.

Beets can be prepared very simply. This recipe highlights their sweetness while adding just a little kick from the chili herb vinegar. The vinegar I used here was one I received in my oh so great farm basket a few weeks ago. If you don’t happen to have chili herb vinegar in your kitchen (which I’m assuming most people don’t) you can get a similar effect by adding just a little bit of siracha or any hot sauce to apple cider vinegar – basically you just want some tang and some spice. These are great on their own as a side dish, or as a topping for a salad or flat bread.

Note: This recipe only makes enough for 2 people (or 1 very hungry person!) so you’ll want to double or triple if you’ve got a crowd.

Sweet and Spicy Beets
3-4 whole beets
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1 Tablespoon chili herb vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Wash your beets and peel them using a potato peeler. Then cut each one into 1 inch sized chunks – I find it’s easiest to cut the beet in half, then cut each half into small pieces.

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3. In a small bowl add your olive oil, brown sugar, vinegar, salt and pepper and whisk to combine.

4. Toss your beets in the mixture and pour the entire bowl evenly over a baking sheet.

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5. Bake at 400 for about 40-45 minutes, until you can easily stick a fork in the beets, enjoy!

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Tabbouleh

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I love making dishes that I can make a big batch of and bring to lunch every day for a week. This helps prevent me from going out and buying lunch. It also gives me a lunch I can look forward to – not just some sad sandwich that I don’t really want to eat. Tabbouleh is an excellent example of this, this recipe makes enough for nearly a week’s worth of lunches and paired with a nice warm pita it’s a lunch you’re sure to look forward to!

If you haven’t used bulgur before it’s a type of wheat that’s common in Middle Eastern cooking. You can find it in most grocery stores near the rice or the international aisle. Unlike other grains, you cook it by pouring boiling water over the wheat and letting it sit and absorb.photo(33)

This recipe is very light and fresh while still being filling. I definitely suggest making some pitas to go with it. This King Arthur recipe works every time! You can also substitute some of the flour for whole wheat if you like.

Tabbouleh
1 cup bulgur wheat
2 cups boiling water
1 pint cherry tomatoes, each cut into quarters
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup dried mint
6 green onions, chopped
1 cucumber, chopped (optional)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1. Place your bulgur in a heatproof bowl, boil your water and add the boiling water to the bowl with the bulgur. Cover the bowl with aluminum foil and let it sit for about 30 minutes, until the water has evaporated and the bulgur is softened. Fluff the bulgur lightly with a fork.

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2. While waiting for your bulgur, chop your tomatoes, parsley, cucumber and onions and add them to a separate bowl. Next add the mint. Once the bulgur has cooled, add the chopped vegetables and mint to it and stir to combine.

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3. Finally, make the dressing. Combine the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Pour the dressing over the bulgur mixture and stir it thoroughly to combine.

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4. Chill for at least an hour before serving, enjoy!

Roasted Stuffed Tomatoes

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These roasted tomatoes are a very quick and easy appetizer or snack. They’re the perfect combination of the soft roasted tomato, slightly crunchy baked breadcrumbs and melted mozzarella – you pretty much can’t go wrong!

These were also a great way for me to incorporate an awesome lemon bergamot balsamic vinegar I bought and can not get enough of. My mom and I discovered an olive oil and balsamic tasting room in Alexandria, VA that any foodie in the DC area should check out! Olio has tons of different oils and vinegars for you to try out – flavors I never would have even thought of. I ended up purchasing the lemon bergamot because it has a nice citrus note to it. I’ve been looking for more and more ways to incorporate this balsamic into my dishes (so let me know if you have any suggestions)!

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Roasted Stuffed Tomatoes
6 Roma tomatoes
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 small red onion finely chopped
1/4 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut each tomato in half lengthwise and scoop out the center. Place the hallowed out halves on a paper towel to draw out some of their moisture.

2. While the tomatoes are drying prepare the filling by combining the remaining ingredients in a small bowl.

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3. Place your tomato halves on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Carefully spoon the filling into each tomato.

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4. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the filling starts to look crisp and golden, enjoy!

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Arancini

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These arancini have quickly become a holiday favorite with my family. While we don’t do the full blown out Italian seven fishes dinner, we do avoid meat on Christmas Eve and make at least a couple of fish dishes. My mom introduced these rice balls to our vegetarian Christmas Eve menu a few years ago and they were an instant success.

This year I took on the arancini duty and am happy to have this recipe under my belt now.  While I usually shy away from things that need to be fried, these are totally worth the effort (and I usually make my husband do the frying part for me)!

Arancini
2 cups uncooked rice
1 container of small fresh mozzarella balls, cut in half
2 cups breadcrumbs
6 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese
1/4 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
vegetable oil for frying

Note: I’ve found that it’s easier to make this recipe in thirds (as described below) to get the right texture for your rice mixture.

1. Cook the rice according to the instructions on the package and let it cool completely once cooked.

2. Place 1/2 cup of the breadcrumbs in a small bowl.

3. When the rice has cooled, add 1/3 of the cooked rice, 1/2 cup of breadcrumb, 2 lightly beaten eggs, 1/3 cup of grated cheese and 1/3 of the chopped basil in a bowl and stir to combine. The mixture should be just a little sticky, so you can easily roll it into a ball. If it’s too sticky, add a bit more rice.

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4. Take a small amount of the rice mixture and form it into a ball. Make a small indent in the middle of the ball and place half of one of the small mozzarella balls in it, cover it with a bit more of the rice mixture and roll into a ball.

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5. Roll each ball in the bowl of breadcrumbs and then set aside.

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6. Continue the same process until all of your rice is used up.

7. Heat about 3 inches of vegetable oil in saucepan on medium heat to 350 degrees. When the oil has reached 350 degrees carefully fry the arancini in small batches for about 4 minutes each, until brown.

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8. Place each arancini on a paper towel to drain and serve warm. These pair great with some marinara sauce, enjoy!

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Feta and Olive Stuffed Dough Balls

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So I wasn’t really sure what to call these.  They’re inspired by a Turkish dish called pogaca, which are basically delicious little dough balls stuffed with feta and parsley.  I happen to have a lot of olives around and wanted to incorporate those so I added them to the filling.  Then, I decided I wanted a touch of spice so I added Turkish pepper paste.  The pepper paste is difficult to find in American grocery stores but you could mix some cayenne or red pepper into tomato paste and get a similar product.

I just love the dough that these call for, it’s absolutely beautiful and always comes out great.  If you have a phobia of making dough (like I did for a long time) this is a great one to try to boost your dough making confidence.  These can make a great appetizer, but they’re hard to stop eating so for me they usually end up being a meal on their own!

Feta and Olive Stuffed Dough Balls
Dough:
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1 cup of milk
1 1/2 Tablespoon yeast
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt

Filling:
3/4 cup pepper paste (see above for substitute)
1/2 cup pitted olives
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 small onion, chopped
1 Tablespoon dried parsley
1/2 Tablespoon dried mint
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Egg Wash:
1 large egg, whisked

1. Combine the yeast and 1/2 cup of the milk in the bowl of a stand mixer and let stand for about 10 minutes.

2. Combine the rest of the dry ingredients for the dough and add them to your mixer. Combine using the dough hook. Next add the melted butter. Then, add the rest of the milk slowly.

3. Continue to mix using the dough hook for about 5 minutes, you should have a slightly sticky dough at this point.

4. Transfer the dough to a bowl, cover with a clean towel and let rise for at least an hour.

5. While your dough is rising, make your filling. The easiest way is to combine all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until they become a spread like mixture. If you don’t have a food processor you can also chop the olives and onion and just stir everything else in.

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6. Once the dough has risen, roll it out in small batches using a rolling pin until it’s about 1/8 inch thin. Use a circular cookie cutter (or the top of a glass) to cut out circles that are about 2 inches in diameter. Place the circles on a baking sheet.

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7. Fill the middle of each circle with a small amount of the filling. Then bunch up the ends together to hold the filling. Place the “bunched” side down on the baking sheet. Brush each dough ball with the egg wash and bake at 350 for about 25-30 minutes, until they start to brown. Enjoy!

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Squash Fritters

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I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! It was great to have a chance to go home and spend some time with my family. These fritters are inspired by a dish my Uncle made for Thanksgiving dinner. He mentioned that he had a bunch of leftover squash from his CSA basket and needed to come up with a way to use them up. I’ve been in a similar situation with a variety of squash taking over my valuable counter space so I decided I’d try to make something similar.

I combined a butternut and a spaghetti squash for these but you could use pretty much any variety you have hanging around. Frying them in a pan gives them a nice crispy exterior and keeps the inside pretty soft. I also toss them in the oven for a few minutes after taking them out of the pan to help them crisp up even more. This will make about 30-40 fritters, but they’re sure to go fast! photo(22)

Squash Fritters
2 squash of any variety
2 large eggs
1 onion, finely chopped
1-2 cups flour
olive oil
salt
pepper
cinnamon
nutmeg

1. Cut your squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper and cinnamon. Roast the squash at 375 for about an hour – until they’re soft.

2. Remove your roasted squash from the oven and let them cool a bit. Once cooled, begin to scoop out the insides and add them to a large bowl (be careful not to get the skins).

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3. Mash up the squash mixture with a fork or a potato masher. Season with salt, pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg to taste.

4. Add your eggs to the squash and combine well. Then, begin adding your flour 1/2 cup at a time until you reach a sticky consistency.

5. Heat up your oil in a frying pan on medium heat, use enough oil to coat to the bottom of the pan.

6. Once your oil is hot, carefully scoop a dollop of the squash mixture into the oil – it should sizzle when added. If it doesn’t sizzle, let the oil get hotter before adding your next fritter. Fry the fritters 3-4 at a time, careful to not overcrowd the pan. You will probably need to change your oil a few times in order to cook the whole batch.

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7. Cook fritters for 3-4 minutes on each side. Then place them on a baking sheet and put them in the oven at 350 for another ten minutes. Enjoy!

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Cornbread, Apple and Turkey Sausage Stuffing

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It’s finally the week of Thanksgiving! Only 3 work days between us and the delicious food and precious family time that Thanksgiving brings. Last year was my first attempt at making the entire meal myself. Since my husband and I couldn’t get enough time off of work to go home, I bravely bought a Turkey, read a ton of recipes and how-tos and decided I’d figure it out on my own. The meal had a few failures (the fear of undercooking my bird led me to overcook it) but overall turned out pretty well. This year, we’re lucky enough to go home and enjoy the day with the rest of our family but I still wanted to make a big batch of stuffing for us to enjoy as we please.

Stuffing is by far my favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal. I love digging into a big dish of crisp, bubbling stuffing. I decided to try something new this year and use cornbread. I also added apples and turkey sausage. The sweetness that the apples get when they bake perfectly balances the slight heat of the sausage.

If any of you are cooking your first Thanksgiving this year, this dish is sure to be a hit. As for the Turkey, I suggest getting a thermometer, I sure wish I had!

Cornbread Apple and Turkey Sausage Stuffing
1 pan of cornbread , if you need a recipe I like this one from the Neely’s – just make it in a cake pan instead of cupcake tins photo(17)
1 lb Italian turkey sausage
2 medium onions, chopped
5-6 celery stalks, chopped
2-3 apples, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 – 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 T butter
1 T olive oil
1 T sage
1 T parsley
1 T oregano
salt
pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Break your cornbread into chunks and place them on a large baking sheet. Since cornbread is naturally kind of crumbly it can be hard to get good sized chunks, if you end up with some crumbs that’s fine. Toast the bread in the oven until it starts to brown, about 10 minutes.

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2. Add the butter and olive oil to a large pot on medium – low heat. Add the onions, celery and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Crumble the turkey sausage as you add it to the pot and turn it up to medium heat. Add the rest of the spices. Stir occasionally and cook for about 8-10 minutes.

4. Add the apples to the pot and continue to cook until your sausage is cooked through.

5. Once the sausage has cooked, turn off the heat and add your cornbread. Add 1 cup of stock and stir to combine. Continue adding stock as needed until the mixture is moist, but not soggy.

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6. Transfer the mixture to a baking dish, cover with foil and bake at 350. Remove the foil after 30 minutes and continue to cook for another 25-30 minutes, just until the top starts to get crisp, enjoy!

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Simple Sautéed Kale

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I know I know, its cliche now to say you recently discovered kale is an awesome superfood, but I never tried it until a few months ago and now I’m obsessed – where have you been all my life kale!? Kale is good in so many preparations and this is one of my favorites. A super simple way to get all of the healthy benefits of this great ingredient.

This could be a great Thanksgiving side if you’re looking for ways to lighten up traditional holiday sides. To all my other kale fans out there, let me know how you like to cook it!

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2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion sliced into thin strips
1 glove garlic, minced
1 bunch of kale
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper

1. Add the oil and garlic to a pan on medium heat.

2. Let the garlic cook for 30-60 seconds and then add the onion and season with salt and pepper.

3. Let the onion cook for about 4 minutes and then add the kale, if the entire bunch won’t fit in the pan you can add some, let it cook down a little and then add the rest.

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4. Add the lemon juice and red pepper flakes and continue to cook until the kale has wilted, about 8 minutes, enjoy!

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Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

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I think I eat about twice as much mac n cheese as a normal human being should.  Whenever the mac n cheese food truck is even remotely near my office I can’t resist.  It’s just one of those foods that pretty much always sounds good to me.

This week a lone butternut squash was the only farm basket ingredient we had left to use by Sunday, so I was searching for something creative and relatively simple to do with it.  This recipe satisfied the need to use up the squash, and eat something cheesy and carby.  I was afraid adding squash to such a comfort food type of dish would end up kind of strange, but it’s actually not weird at all!

The one thing no one seems to mention about cooking with squash is how difficult it is to cut!  I mean I know I’m pretty weak but I still think cutting open a squash qualifies as a days work out.

Butternut Squash Mac n Cheese
1 medium butternut squash
3/4 box of small pasta (elbows or shells work best)
3 T butter
3 T flour
2 cups of heavy cream
2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese
1 T olive oil
1/2 cup bread crumbs
salt, pepper and cinnamon to taste

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut butternut squash in half, scoop out the seeds and brush the insides with olive oil a bit of salt, pepper and cinnamon. Roast for about 45 minutes, until tender.

2. When your squash is cooked, lower the oven to 350 and let the squash cool for a bit. Carefully scoop out the insides of the squash, being sure not to get any of the skin.

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3. Cook your pasta in a pot of boiling salted water until al dente.  When it’s cooked add it to a large oven pan

4. In a large saucepan melt the butter on medium – low heat. Once melted, add the flour and whisk continuously. Next add your heavy cream and continue to stir.  Then add the cheese and the squash and continue stirring until the cheese has melted and everything is combined.  Add a pinch of cinnamon and salt and pepper to taste.

5.  Pour the cream sauce over the cooked pasta and top with breadcrumbs.

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6. Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes, enjoy!

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Corn and Cheddar Biscuits

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You know when you make something so good that you never want to eat the last bite?  Well, that’s how I feel about these biscuits.  We ate all but one of them the night I made them, and the next night I made them again, they are that good.  Best of all, they’re really quick to make, so you can throw them together as often as you want!  They also make for great breakfast sandwiches!

I don’t know about you, but whenever I end up making something with cheese, I can’t help but indulge myself along the way.  While cutting up the cheese for these, it went something like, one slice for me, one slice to add to the biscuits.  Oh well, that’s the best part of baking right?

In my second batch I added some chopped leeks that I had to the batter.  You could also try some green onions or very finely chopped red onion.  Also, feel free to switch up the cheeses and use fresh corn if you have it.

ImageCorn and Cheddar Biscuits adapted from Food Network

1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cold butter cut into cubes
1/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese chopped into cubes or shredded
1/4 cup monterrey jack with jalapenos cheese chopped into cubes or shredded
1 teaspoon chopped thyme
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon cayenne
3/4 cup canned corn

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees photo (38)

2. Combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and butter in a bowl. Add in the butter and either work it in with your fingers or use the paddle attachment of a stand mixer until it forms small clumps.

3. Add the cheese, thyme, cayenne and corn. Slowly add the milk until combined into a dough.

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4. Roll the dough out on a floured surface until it’s about 1/2 inch thick. Use a biscuit cutter to cut out rounds. Don’t have a biscuit cutter – me either! Just use the top of a round cup, that works just as well.

5. Continue rolling out dough and cutting out rounds until you’ve used all the dough you can.

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6. Whisk the egg in a small bowl and brush a little over each round.

6. Place the rounds on a baking sheet and bake for about 15-20 minutes, until they just begin to brown.

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